Jorge Carreno had a message for every trainer he met.
“I’m going to win a race for you,” he’d say without a hint of cockiness.
He simply wanted the business and more often than not made good on the promise.
That attitude is part of the reason he won his second riding title last winter at Turf Paradise in Phoenix. He also hooked up with a solid stable much of the meet. Getting most of the calls from the barn of trainer Robertino Diodoro, rider and trainer won titles together at the Arizona track.
The Phoenix riding title, Carreno’s second in the last three years, is a really a story within the story of how he finally made it to Canterbury Park this season.
Rewind momentarily to the start of the Turf Paradise meet last autumn and the ear-to-ear grin that lit up Carreno’s face when his agent, Chad Anderson, approached him.
“He’d been asking me to come with me to Minnesota since I got him three years ago,” said Anderson. “I can have three riders down there but only two here.” Anderson had Derek Bell and Scott Stevens, so Carreno had to wait his turn in the wings. Without Bell any longer, Anderson approached Carreno after arriving in Phoenix and told him that his time had come.
“You could see 22 white teeth,” Anderson said. “That’s how wide his smile was.”
Carreno,31, was coming into his own when Anderson picked him up in 2012 and demonstrated that he could ride for just about anyone if they gave him the chance.”He was the leading rider that year and won a race for everybody he rode for,” said Anderson. “It was amazing. He’d tell a trainer he’d win a race for them and then he’d do it.”
Now rewind to Carreno’s boyhood growing up in Cocula, Guerrero, a Mexican village where the means of transportation for many is on horseback ,or in Carreno’s case, donkey. “I rode my donkey everywhere I needed to go as a boy,” he said. “People would ride their horses everywhere, too, from one town to another.”
Jorge accompanied his father, a groom, to meets at Fairmont, Hawthorne and Arlington parks as a youngster. When his father returned to Mexico after one of those meets, Jorge stayed behind, working the barns, galloping when he came up age and then riding. He has seven siblings, including three brothers, but is the only one of them to make racing a profession. He and his wife, Maria, have three daughters.
His first winner? A 30-1 longshot named Never Chance, 2002 at Farimont Park. In the time since he has ridden throughout Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, the Southwest, Canada and, now, Minnesota.
His signature wins, all but one, have come at Turf Paradise. “I rode my first big winner there,” he said. The $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup, for Diodoro. He also got his 1,000th win there last winter. Again, on a Diodoro horse. A win in the Canadian Derby two years ago was his biggest, although for a different trainer.
Anderson and Diodoro are in lockstep on Carreno’s strong points. He rides as hard in claiming events as he does in stakes races, without exception.
“He rides hard for everybody. He wants to win for everybody. He’s a strong rider and he rides that way for everyone. You can’t match his attitude,” Anderson added.
Indeed not. Didoro had to wait until hell froze over last year to get his first win. Not the case this time around. Carreno was on a Diodoro horse in the winner’s circle following the first race of the season.
Although Carreno is among Canterbury’s early leading riders, Anderson, taking the philosophical position, figures it could still take a while for him to get acquainted locally. “It will probably take him a year to break in. I’ve already talked to him about that,” said Anderson. “Many of us havel been here since 1995. It’s not a spot where somebody jumps right in. It can take a year or so.”
Nonetheless, Carreno’s attitude hasn’t changed. He still wants to win, for whomever he rides. An eavesdropper might even catch him telling a trainer some morning, “Hey, I will win this race for you.”
by Jim Wells